I am a Seattle Seahawks fan. During Sunday’s game against New York Giants, I was yelling and fist-pumping right alongside my boyfriend Neil, who came close to spilling my beer in the excitement. After the win against the Saints three weeks ago, I posted praises for Russell Wilson on Facebook and hinted at a 12th man jersey gift for Christmas. Another post I shared was a picture of a funny fan’s sign, reading “Our hawks float on your Brees.” This caught the attention of Neil’s parents. At dinner last weekend his mom and dad asked, “What exactly is the ’12th man’ and why was the world-record such a big deal?”
After feeling my heart swell with pride seeing the 12th man section in New Jersey on Sunday, I decided I would find out the answers.
The national football league allows a maximum of eleven players per team on the playing field at a time. So, referring to a team’s fans as the ’12th man’ implies that they are embodying a helpful role during a game.
The tradition actually got started in 1922, during a Texas A&M game. The Aggies called E. King Gill down from the stands during a moment of limited reserves. A former football player, Gill suited up and stood ready throughout the rest of the contest. The Aggies won by 22-14 against Centre even though Gill was never called onto the field. Since he had accepted the call to help his team, E. King Gill came to be known as the ‘Twelfth Man‘ because he was ready for duty in case the eleven men on the gridiron needed help.
Our Seahawks were founded in 1976 and football-starved Seattle swarmed in to cheer. The continually sold-out stadium strongly impacted the success of the team in the early 1980’s. On December 15, 1984, Seahawks president Mike McCormack retired the number 12 jersey forever.
Late in 2003 saw the start of raising the #12 flag before every home game. From the beginning, the person at the rope has been a famous Seattle resident such as Rufus Porter, who played for the team from 1988 to 1994, and Joe Moser, a World War II fighter pilot and Ferndale native. This has turned into such an honor that Miesha Tate of the UFC has started a twitter campaign to be the next flag-raiser.
— Miesha Tate (@MieshaTate) December 15, 2013
Almost 30 years ago in 1985, the NFL instituted a noise rule but the Seattle fans pretty much just ignore this, continuing to give home field advantage. Following a 24-21 OT Giants loss to Seattle in 2005, Coach Mike Holmgren dedicated a game ball to the 12th Man. New York committed 11 false starts and failed three field goal-attempts while being inundated by fan-noise at CenturyLink Field. The fans cause an average of 2.36 false starts per game and are credited with the Seahawks being undefeated at home in 2012.
The incredible noise has even created seismic events on two different occasions, both coming against the Saints. The first was in the 2011 playoffs during Marshawn Lynch’s famous 65 yard touchdown run, now known as the Beast Quake. And earlier this season, Michael Bennett caused another one. During that game the noise level of 137.6 decibels placed CenturyLink Field in the Guinness Book of World Records for loudest enclosed stadium. How loud is that? It is only 12.4 decibels below rupturing the eardrum.
Watching Sunday’s game against the Giants, I caught a glimpse of our dedicated traveling cadre of Seahawks fans; a tiny 12th man section behind New York’s end zone during the first half was proudly waving Seahawks flags. Now that I know how Seattle’s ’12th man’ came to be, I’m even more proud to call myself a fan. I’m not quite ready just yet ready to travel across the country though. Hopefully this admission won’t delay the shipment of my #12 jersey.
What makes the Seahawks success this year even more impressive is they’re playing in the NFC West: the toughest division in football.